How Swimming Affects Mental Health

Irina Cunnar
3 min readJan 10, 2022

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Good mental health is marked by an ability to think, behave, and feel in the ways they ought to and desire. People living with mental health conditions often experience difficulty managing how they think, feel, or react. One out of every four people suffers from a mental health problem in any given year.

Depression and anxiety often constitute the most common mental health issues, while schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are less common. Mental health issues can affect everyone and can be caused by various factors that are often complicated and interconnected. Mental health workers may find it difficult the determine the cause of a condition. They believe it is often a mix of events.

It is not easy to pinpoint what is mentally soothing about being near or in water. Although exhaustive research has not been conducted, swimming is good for the mind, whether you’re swimming on the beach, in a lake, or in a pool. According to a study, being submerged in water increases blood flow to the brain. This improves the delivery of oxygen, glucose, and nutrients to the brain, implying a beneficial effect on brain health. The Griffith Institute for Educational Research reported that children who learn to swim earlier than their peers reach significant cognitive developments like visual-motor skills, literacy, oral expression, and numeracy earlier than their peers and non-swimmers.

Studies have noted that regular swimming can reduce depression and anxiety and enhance sleep patterns. Swimming releases endorphins, natural feel-good hormones that make us feel more in control. In a study involving 4,000 swimmers worldwide, 34 percent agreed that water-based activities helped them relax, and 68 percent said that being in the water made them feel better about themselves. Swimming is an excellent approach for persons with dementia to improve their memory, focus, and concentration.

While swimming is typically a lone activity, it could constitute leisure and a team activity that others may enjoy. Swimming can be an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people to share experiences, tactics or interact socially. Many leisure centers and public pools promote the social aspect of the activity, whether through competitive swimming events, aquatics-based workout courses.

While swimming is beneficial to mental health, it could get overwhelming. Hence, it is advised to start slowly as this may help you spot the difference between the physical effects of swimming and those of a panic attack. It is advised to exit the pool and find a quiet space to recover or remain in the shallow end of the pool the moment one experiences a panic attack.

Swimming too much can be a form of self-harm when exercising starts to dominate your schedule or if you get nervous when you miss a session. Also, if swimming becomes more important to you than work, family, or friends, you may develop an exercise or training compulsion, and you should seek medical help.

Medication can impact the types and levels of swimming one can safely indulge. Consult your doctor or psychiatrist to determine how much swimming is safe for you. Medication can also lead to dehydration, exacerbated by swimming because you continue to sweat and lose fluids while in the water.

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Irina Cunnar
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A human resources generalist and corporate communications expert, Irina Cunnar joined SynSel Energy in May 2021.